Volunteering with rcv

The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (RCV) is an all-volunteer organization. We are very thankful to everyone who donates their time and energy to help the injured and orphaned raptors in our care. RCV volunteers come from many walks of life: professionals from diverse fields, homemakers, retirees, and college students. Before you decide whether you might be interested in applying to be an RCV volunteer, we would like to share some information about the work we do and answer some common questions.

RCV Volunteer Duties and Responsibilities

The main duties of an RCV volunteer are to ensure that all of the raptors are fed and that the facility is cleaned.

  • Feeding the birds includes preparing dead mice, day old chicks, and quail that will be fed to the raptors in rehabilitation and to our education birds. At our flight cages feeding will also include providing live mice to the raptors that are regaining their strength, flying ability and hunting skills.
  • Handling raptors in rehabilitation is a skill all volunteers must master, because birds often must be handled in order to give them necessary medication and food if they are unable to feed themselves.
  • Cleaning involves removing soiled newspapers, sweeping up debris (old food, bird poop) and cleaning off the cage carpeting. We also have numerous air filters that must be cleaned every day, and the floor needs to be mopped.

These are the basic tasks that all volunteers are expected to perform. There are many other duties that volunteers can take on if they wish to do so, but no one gets exempted from feeding and cleaning duty. Volunteering at RCV is can be a bit messy but it is very rewarding to help raptors in need.

RCV has about 20 non-releasable education birds that live with us year round. Each has a physical reason why they cannot be released because they cannot survive in the wild. Volunteers give presentations with our education birds to groups at schools, churches, community centers, fairs and parks about the work that RCV does and the raptors that we help. If you are interested in training to work with RCV’s education birds at public programs please let us know on your application form. Training with the education birds is in addition to the main feeding and cleaning training and regular duties.

There are some common misconceptions about what RCV volunteers do.

  • We do not perform medical procedures on the birds. A highly skilled veterinary surgeon assesses and treats each bird and performs these procedures.
  • We do not apprentice wildlife rehabilitators. If you wish to obtain state and federal permits for rehabilitating wildlife (including raptors) you will need to work elsewhere.

How to Become an RCV Volunteer

Anyone wishing to become an RCV volunteer needs to do the following:

  • Complete the online application form below - don't forget to hit the "submit" button at the end otherwise we won't receive your application!
  • Attend two 2-hour orientation sessions. Small training classes are held twice a year for invited applicants. Please note that we receive many more applications than people we can train in any given class, so it may be awhile before someone contacts you.
  • Train one-on-one with an experienced RCV volunteer at least 3 days a month on food preparation and feeding regimes, safe raptor handling, cleaning protocols and general raptor care. At a minimum all volunteers are expected to attend 8 one-on-one sessions where they complete feeding and cleaning at both our indoor critical care facility and our outdoor flight cages. These sessions average 4 hours (typically between 11am-5pm) and may be longer during busy seasons (Spring and Summer). Some people find they need more than 8 sessions to gain a comfort level with the birds and that’s ok!
  • Only after RCV's Executive Director assesses your progress and is comfortable that you are ready to work on your own will you be allowed to do so.
  • After training is complete volunteers are expected to assist at RCV on a regular basis.

All volunteers must be 18 years or older. RCV facilities are located in Falls Church, VA.

Banner photo - Eastern Screech Owl "Smoke" - by Hung Vu